Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Movie Review – The Dark Knight Rises

  ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is the finale to the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy. I wanted to see this movie on its opening weekend, but had no time between my chess camp and weekend tournament. Kathy and Ben went to the midnight show on opening night and Matt went a day later. I finally got to go see it with Matt on Monday night.

  Because I had to wait to see the movie, I got to hear what a lot of people thought of it. It seemed that the people who knew Batman from the comics didn’t care for the movie, while people who followed Batman primarily from the movies really liked it. The only things I knew about the movie was that Bane and Catwoman were the villains and it takes place years after the epic second movie that featured Heath Ledger as the Joker.

  I watched the second movie in the series, ‘The Dark Knight’, a couple of times over the past few weeks and didn’t think it could be topped by the ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. The Joker has always been the baddest of all the Batman bad guys, but the Nolan/Ledger interpretation took him to new levels. This Joker was not only psychotic, he was a physical match for Batman and so smart he can outwit the police, the mob, and the Batman. That film ended with Batman taking the blame for the crimes committed by District Attorney Harvey Dent after the Joker turned him into the criminal Two-Face.

  The ‘Dark Knight Rises’ take place years after the ‘Dark Knight’ ends and shows Bruce Wayne as a semi-crippled recluse who is still mourning the death of his childhood sweetheart at the hands of the Joker. His interest in life in reawakened when he catches Selina Kyle (Catwoman) breaking into his safe. She appears to be stealing his mother’s string of pearls, but Wayne discovers that the pearls were an ‘impulse buy’ and the break-in was part of a more elaborate scheme that finally brings Wayne back to the Bat Cave in order to decipher it. The Catwoman was played by Anne Hathaway and she fit well into the role as the good natured and highly skilled thief who looks out for herself without concerning herself with concepts like good or evil.

  Bane makes his appearance as a mysterious figure whose face is covered by a mask, but he is incredibly strong and a master planner. His appearance in the comics is after my time so I don't know if this is true to the comics or not. Bane is portrayed not only as a great criminal mind, but also as some sort of philosopher who tries to sound as if he had just walked off the set of a Shakespeare play. I liked his character a lot but I could barely understand a word he said through the mask, making his part in the movie hard to follow.

  The movie runs 2 and a half hours but with only 3 major action scenes I thought it was slow moving. Bane takes over Gotham City as his own twisted kingdom with the police imprisoned, the criminals in charge (Cillian Murphy as Dr. Crane aka Scarecrow makes another great appearance as the ‘Chief Justice’ of Gotham), and a multi-megaton nuclear bomb as his means of keeping outsiders from US government out. The interplay between the criminals in charge and the ‘resistance’ led by Commissioner Gordon was well done, but I’d rather have seen more action.

  At the same time as the Bane takes over Gotham Bruce Wayne/Batman is spending a majority of the movie in recovery from his beating at the hands of Bane in an ancient prison that can be left by climbing a seemingly unscalable wall, which requires not only physical skill but self-mastery as well. It was reminiscent of him acquiring his ninja skills in ‘Batman Begins’ from that movie’s villain Ra’s Al Ghul (who also appears in a dream sequence along with Wayne’s father). I think the idea was to show the rebirth of the adult Wayne as the Batman but to me it just took way too long and bogged the movie down. Once Wayne escapes the prison, the action picks up at a breakneck pace and the last half hour of the movie contains more twists and turns than Total Recall or Inception. The ending may not be very satisfying to the purists, but I thought it was a fitting end to this Batman trilogy. While not quite up to the standard of ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ was well worth the wait and a fine movie in its own right. I can’t hold the fact that it had to follow one of the great movies of all time against it. All told, the next Batman director has his or her work cut out to come close to the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy.

  The ‘Dark Knight Rises’ ends a big season of super hero movies, following ’The Avengers’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’. Next year will bring ‘The Man of Steel’ Superman movie and Iron Man 3. After the relatively poor performance of the 2006 movie ‘Superman Returns’, Superman needs to have a box office winner in order to survive as a major player in the super hero movie world. A big problem is that he’s just too super. Super-strength, super-speed, X-ray vision, heat vision…and he can fly. The original superman did not have all these powers: he could leap tall buildings in a single bound, was faster than a bullet, and more powerful than a locomotive. Period. If the new Superman had just those powers, any number of adversaries would make a good matchup, but since the movie trailer shows Superman flying into the stratosphere, I think he’ll need an intergalactic villain like Darkseid to make a compelling movie.